B&Q owner blames weather for sales dip

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The Independent Online

Kingfisher, which owns B&Q, has blamed the wettest summer on record in the UK and northern Europe for a double-digit fall in profits at the global DIY group.

It said the torrential rain had wiped more than £30m off its half-year profits and forced it to discount "aggressively" to clear seasonal products such as plants, barbecues, hosepipes and greenhouses, after sales tumbled during the soggy weather.

Ian Cheshire, chief executive, said the worst summer in "100 years" had contributed to its sales of plants falling by 20 per cent. At B&Q UK and Ireland profits fell by 24.1 per cent to £125m over the 26 weeks to 28 July.

The chain said weekly footfall to its stores had been down by an average of 1.2 million in its peak trading months of May and June, and this had a knock-on effect on other categories, as absent customers did not buy other non-seasonal products.

Mr Cheshire said: "If it had not been for the slightly bizarre weather we would have seen a more solid first-half in the UK."

More positively, the torrential rain led to sales of lawn mowers powering ahead by 13 per cent as grass thrived in the warm and wet conditions, while sales of water butts jumped by 60 per cent and slug pellets were up by 33 per cent.

Kingfisher, the world's third-largest DIY group with 988 stores in eight countries, posted a 15.5 per cent fall in profits to £371m.

In France, where Kingfisher operates the Brico Depot and Castorama chains, sales were actually higher in the south but down in the north, reflecting the country's weather divide.

In addition to the wet weather impact, Kingfisher took a £25m currency hit from the pound strengthening against the euro and Polish zloty.

Kingfisher's total sales slipped by 3.3 per cent to £5.48bn, including a fall in revenues in China, but it was buoyed by growth in Poland, Russia, Spain and Turkey.

The group lifted its interim dividend by 25.1 per cent to 3.09p.